Yo! This flick gets mad gangsta love

In `Malibu,' there's plenty of hip-hop fun to be had

Movie Reviews

April 18, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

What happens when a fish out of water doesn't even realize he's a fish?

Such is the unrecognized quandary facing young Brad Gluckman, a privileged Malibu teen who sees himself as the rap-master bad boy of California's Gold Coast. Not only is he way too white and way too rich to have much in the way of street cred; he's also just about the world's worst rapper. But none of that matters to the genially oblivious Brad - or B-Rad, as he'd rather be known - who's talked the talk for far too long to let anything get in the way of the soft-core gangsta persona he's built for himself in the 'Bu.

Malibu's Most Wanted mines a well-worn comedic vein, but does so with a consistent good humor and surprisingly deft touch. It's hardly the funniest, most refreshing piece of comedy in years, but as a satire of the mass-media stereotypes Hollywood consistently foists on its black characters, it'll more than do.

Jamie Kennedy, of WB TV fame, plays B-Rad, and if his knucklehead gangsta gets a little tiresome at times - he whines rather than talks, a parody of street 'tude that quickly wears out its welcome - the cluelessness he maintains throughout compensates enough to keep things bearable. And just about everyone else in the cast, from Ryan O'Neal as his politician dad to Damien Dante Wayans as a genuine gangsta with no idea what to make of this guy, is a stitch.

B-Rad jives his way through life a happy guy, heading up his Malibu posse - they visit a local cosmetics store and defiantly insist on only the finest scented soap - and rapping whenever the spirit moves him, which is constantly. But of late, he's proving an embarrassment to his father (O'Neal), who's running for governor and doesn't exactly bask in the glow of B-Rad's attempts to help (which involve several slogans that are hilariously inappropriate for a family newspaper). So dad's campaign manager (Blair Underwood) comes up with a plan: He hires a couple of black actors to "kidnap" B-Rad and take him to South Central L.A. for a taste of what life in the 'hood is really all about. That should drain the color from his personality real quick, they figure.

As the two actors whose knowledge of the streets is limited to what they've seen on prime-time TV (at least that's a step better than B-Rad, who's lifted his knowledge from BET), Taye Diggs and Anthony Anderson are the best things about Malibu's Most Wanted. Both are clearly having a blast with the stereotypes they've been asked to adopt; truth is, they're as clueless about how to act as B-Rad, and Anderson and Diggs are far better actors.

The cast also includes Regina Hall as a beautician-in-training hired to help in the scam but soon takes pity on B-Rad; alone among those surrounding him, she realizes he's not pretending to be anything. B-Rad may be deluded, but he's no poser.

There's a lot that could be offensive about this movie, but the atmosphere is just too genial to be taken seriously. The laughs are genuine, if frequently obvious. Malibu's Most Wanted is filled with characters called upon to act against type, finding its humor by juxtaposing what audiences expect with what the characters actually do. There's plenty of fun to be had, watching all those fish flopping about on dry land.

Malibu's Most Wanted

Starring Jamie Kennedy, Taye Diggs, Anthony Anderson

Directed by John Whitesell

Rated PG-13 (language, mild raunch)

Released by Warner Bros.

Time 86 minutes

SUN SCORE

* * *

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